Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Bath's hospital and our NHS - jewels in our crown

A couple of weeks ago, I was privileged to attend a very enjoyable evening in Bath where we celebrated some of the shining stars from one of the city’s biggest and most important institutions the Royla United Hospital.

The RUH is at the heart of city life and as its scope goes many miles away from its Bath base, it is clearly one of the most significant organisations that we all have a collective investment in.

Before I came to the Chronicle in 2005 I was aware that the hospital often had the word ‘troubled’ put in front of its name. For various reasons it didn’t have a particularly good image and I’m sure there were many negative comments about its performance (or apparent lack of it) within the pages of my paper.

I’m delighted to say, however, that these days we are far more likely to be reporting success stories and good news from the RUH than the unremitting bad news of old. That doesn’t mean that we ignore any problems or issues that occur at our local hospital – far from it – but what it does mean is that we are now far more likely to reflect the cheers than the tears because it definitely looks as if the RUH is heading in the right direction.

At the night’s awards dinner the focus was put firmly on the individuals and teams who have really made the RUH a modern day Bath success story. And it was truly eye-opening.

I have to declare something of an interest here in that I am an unashamed ‘fan’ of the NHS and everything it does. Like everybody, you tend to judge things on your own personal experiences and in my case, these have never been anything other than positive. Allied to this is the fact I have members of my family who work in the NHS and through them (and through my own eyes) I can see what an extraordinary organisation it is.

We can all get a bit precious and self-important about our jobs –- none more so than those of us in the media for example – but it’s only when you talk to NHS workers that you discover the true meaning of the word ‘context’.

I remember telling one nurse, a close family member, about the ‘bad day’ I had endured with deadlines and staff issues, etc. She said: “Mmm... interesting. I spent last night holding the hands of someone who was dying and watched them slip away.”

Suffice to say I didn’t complain any more.

The truth is the NHS is one of Britain’s crown jewels – a unique and unfathomably complex organisation that has to somehow meet all the ever-increasing expectations we have of it. Does it always get it right? Of course not – but it does so far more times than it ever gets it wrong and I think we all owe it to ourselves to step back occasionally and acknowledge this.

On the night, I was asked to present an award to the Hospital Hero of 2009, a new trophy where the winner was chosen by RUH staff and our readers alike. The winner (Dr Steve Jones) was a very worthy one but as I heard other tales on the night of NHS/RUH staff who had gone the extra mile, I thought “that place is just full of heroes and indeed heroines”.

So well done RUH.

And thanks.

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